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Civilian casualties in Ukraine as Russia targets heat and power infrastructure

A Ukrainian soldiers speaks to AFP near Robotyne, Pictures, Roman Pilipey. Video, Andriy Kalchenko, Oct 12, 2023
A Ukrainian soldiers speaks to AFP near Robotyne, Pictures, Roman Pilipey. Video, Andriy Kalchenko, Oct 12, 2023 Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Euronews with AP, AFP
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A team from AFP reached Ukrainian soldiers in Robotyne for a first-hand account of the fighting there

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At least two civilians in Ukraine were killed and dozens injured as Russian artillery targeted sources of power and heat for the people living near the frontlines.

One civilian died and 13 were injured in Pokrovsk, Donetsk, while in Berislav in Kherson, a munition dropped from a Russian drone onto a civilian car killed a woman and injured her husband and another person in the vehicle.

With intense fighting in many places on the frontline, it is harder to verify military casualties. Government pictures do little to shed light on the realities on the ground. Moscow releases pictures of artillery without verifying its location or the targets the missiles are aiming for, while Ukraine shows images of first aid training for its troops while remaining tight-lipped about its military casualty numbers.

Report from Robotyne

A camera team from AFP did manage to reach the village of Robotyne on the southern front on October 12th. Six weeks ago Ukraine claimed its soldiers had achieved a major breakthrough there.

Yet eight Ukrainian soldiers involved in the fighting told AFP their forces were only inching forward with heavy losses against a Russian army entrenched behind heavily fortified positions.

Speaking in an area usually closed to media, they complained of a lack of manpower, ammunition and drones.

Igor Korol, the heavily tattooed commander of the brigade's first battalion, spoke calmly but did not mince his words.

Primarily a PR move

For him, the announcement of the capture of Robotyne on August 28 was primarily a PR move, since the village, occupied since early in the war, has no strategic value.

"We could have gone around it," he said, speaking to AFP in an area near the front line.

"We love big announcements, quick victories. The reality is different," said the commander who uses the call sign "Morpekh" (Marine).

'Death 100 percent'

Korol said his men are still not able to move freely around the area because of Russian fire, even though they hold the territory, calling it a "gray zone".

At dawn, small groups of soldiers could be seen advancing through the coppices that dot the area to attack Russian positions.

On the day that AFP reporters visited, they were deployed on the outskirts of the next village along - Novokropivka - two or three kilometres away.

"Moving by day means death - 100 percent," Korol said.

Every time there is shelling "there are victims, we lose men".

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While Russian forces are no longer in Robotyne, the area is within their range so large-scale infantry operations with armoured vehicles are impossible.

Reaching the Azov Sea

The Ukrainian army has the ambitious aim of reaching the Azov Sea, cutting through the land bridge between southern and eastern regions occupied by Russia.

A victory like that could force Russia to retreat as it would cut supply lines.

For the Kremlin, the fact that Ukraine has only managed to re-capture a few dozen square kilometres since launching a counteroffensive in June is proof of the failure of this large-scale operation.

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The first main city after Robotyne is Tokmak, around 30 kilometres (20 miles) away. The sea is 70 kilometres away.

Heavy defences

Russia has built up heavy defences including underground shelters, trenches, tank traps and minefields.

Ukrainian forces are only able to inch forwards - and are always under enemy fire.

The Russian defences have been nicknamed the "Surovikin Line" - after General Sergei Surovikin, who commanded Russian forces in Ukraine at the time they were built up.

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The Ukrainian army broke through the first defensive lines in some places this summer but the main defences have held strong.

Autumn rains and mud and winter snow and ice in coming months will make the Ukrainians' task even harder.

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